We are right in the middle of designing products for 2013 and among those products is a pet one of mine: an integrated. I believe today’s Audiophile wants fewer boxes without sacrificing performance and I intend to provide that to them. In that integrated I want basically everything I need to run a system – a Swiss army knife if you will – and I want it affordable so more people can enjoy it and I am not willing to sacrifice an ounce of performance in the bargain.
There’s no reason for me, the consumer, to purchase this integrated if as a whole it doesn’t perform as well or better than my collection of separates. That’s quite a dilemma for a manufacturer as the expectation of any consumer is to pay less for a single package than they would for multiple boxes.
Fair enough, but how does the manufacturer create something as good or better without duplicating what’s in the separates? Our design team can’t put everything you find in a PerfectWave DAC into one box that also contains a power amplifier, preamplifier and phono preamplifier – there’s simply not enough room.
But here’s where this gets fun for us manufacturers. Much of what’s in the PWD has to do with supporting the outside requirements of interconnection to other equipment, user interface, separate chassis, power supply etc. – most of which is not necessary on the integrated. The standalone PWD has to play nice with every other box you connect it to and be compared to every other standalone DAC – the integrated does not – and herein lies the secret to our puzzle.
Remember the car manufacturers from yesterday that make better sounding cars because they are designed to work together? The same can (and should) apply here. We can tailor the DAC to match the preamp/power amp connection, gain structure and connection scheme – because those elements are fixed and known in a one-box-solution. When we voice the final product, we make tweaks to the whole, changing the individual systems to work together. It is to this last piece of the puzzle where you will see major benefits.
Tuning a piece of equipment to the whole means we can tailor the amplifier inside to match the DAC or the phono stage. After all, what’s needed is only for these disparate elements to work together as a whole – not try and fit into some unknown chain people are likely to use.
So in a sense it’s like picking separates that fit together. As a designer I get to pick the power amp that best matches the DAC we’ll use inside, the preamp will be matched to the phono stage and so on – just like you do. You connect up the best match for what you have, including cables, speakers, etc.
So now you can see how integrating a group of separates together can have huge benefits when used as a whole. Tomorrow we finish the series on separates.